I always cringe a bit when I meet someone for the first time and they tell me that they know me through Instagram. An Instagram account is not something that’s easy to live up to. It’s the highlight reel of our lives, the picture perfect ideal of what we want our days to be without all the messy stuff.
Instagram allows us to filter our realities to make them more appealing. It can be something as simple as making a gloomy day look sunny or completely changing events to get the outcomes that we want. When I look back at my Instagram feed from a year ago, all I see are photos of street parties, amazing French toast and all these new places I visited. I don’t have photos of the sadness I was feeling from having to leave home for Melbourne, the struggles of having to start completely from scratch, or that one time I accidentally set off the fire alarm while cooking.
By consciously changing the present in terms of what we decide to take a photo of and what filters we use, we create an alternative narrative of our lives — so much so that when we look back at our photos, we see a completely different past.
Our Instagrams allow us to lose familiarity with our daily lives. We can crop, filter, and sharpen our way to better realities. Our mundane experiences are heightened by the fact that we have chosen to photograph them. Photographs are proof that something actually happened. If we choose not to photograph a certain person, place or event, we are essentially casting them into oblivion, into the pile of things destined to be forgotten.
In the midst of a really bad breakup a friend once told me, “Find someone who loves you for you, not for your Instagram.” By sharing only the best parts of myself, I’ve created an ideal that’s hard to live up to. It made me realize that I have been too obsessed with Valencia-ing my way to a perfect life and not obsessed enough with actualizing it. Filtering out all the bad things that have happened to me in recent memory has given me a false sense of complacency in my life. Susan Sontag once said that “photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation,” and that’s all Instagram is. It gives off an appearance of living a life that isn’t actually being lived. So the next time you’re 10 minutes into filtering that selfie, remember that you are not the sum of your likes, followers and VSCO filters. You are more than that.